Todd Gurley was poised to be the new face of the NFL (and the Los Angeles sports scene) prior to the start of last season.
What happened in 2016 instead was in his own words, “a nightmare.” The first ominous sign for Gurley came right off the bat in the Los Angeles Rams’ 28-0 loss at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers. The second-year back rushed for only 47 yards on 17 carries in the season opener. Unfortunately, Gurley’s production did not improve much from there, struggling for 865 rushing yards in 16 games.
Even though most of his struggles can be directly attributed directly to the inept Rams offensive coaching staff or the equally inept offensive line, Gurley also shoulders a good amount of blame for his struggles last season. Can Gurley return to the form of his fantastic 2015 season? What does the former Georgia Bulldog need to do to improve his overall game offensively?
Head coach Sean McVay immediately brought back running backs coach Skip Peete at the request of Gurley. According to ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez, McVay felt that the coaching staff needed to be open to listening to his players, especially someone with the pedigree of Gurley.
Peete indicated that it was not his running game overall that was the problem. Gurley’s problem last season was his lack of pass protection in the pocket, and that was something that needed to be worked on this offseason. In an interview with ESPN.com, Peete talked about how Gurley needed to focus better on protecting the quarterback (assuming it is Jared Goff).
“I think the most important thing in this league, as far as a running back is concerned, is his ability to pass protect, whether it’s first or second down.”
If you think about it this simple aspect of the overall offensive game is critical. If a running can effectively protect his quarterback that forces the defense to spread out just enough to where they can’t flood the line of scrimmage on every down. In just about every game last season, opposing defenses had no respect for either Case Keenum or Jared Goff and pressured the quarterback at will. As a result, Gurley had little room to operate when he did receive the ball on a handoff. Gurley’s key to being productive in the future is not only reading gaps in the line of scrimmage, but it also comes down to whether or not he can protect the quarterback more effectively.
Sources: ESPN.com, Profootballtalk.com, Foxsports.com,
Martin Cruz is a staff writer for Rams Talk. You can find him on Twitter with the username @MCruz1988.